Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Dead of Night (1945)

And the hits just keep on coming, as this pre-Creepshow, pre-Amicus anthology delivers the goods in fine Tales from the Crypt fashion.  We begin with our wraparound, as an architect arrives at a house full of people.  He immediately informs them that he's seen them in recurring horrible dreams and slowly begins to remember the awful particulars.  In the meantime, they tell their own stories of the unexplained.


Generally speaking, these are not gore-soaked towers of intensity.  This is more like horror of the spooky fireside variety, in which the revelation that someone is really a ghost is quite frightening enough.  For the most part, the stories are well-constructed and executed well within their abbreviated structures.


As stated, this has a serious Tales from the Crypt feel, just with a lot less wallowing around in ghoulishness.  The better stories are simple in execution, often winding up with a punch after a prolonged hammering of the point.  


The single exception and the film's only real Achilles' heel is a tedious comedy-horror bit about a golfer haunted by his rival.  


After which, we get back on track with one of the better devil-doll efforts I've ever seen.  I think the brevity of the story works in the piece's favor, since a prolonged spin on "killer doll" would end up turning into Child's Play or something.  But, at this length, we get enough of the story to charm us and not enough to annoy us.


The acting's very good, the storytelling is mostly pretty flawless, and Dead of Night has a variety of horrors to please all palettes.  It's lots of fun and (Bob Hope ghost comedy aside) holds up surprisingly well.


***1/2

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